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Yet another home birth was deemed senseless. Joseph Thurgood-Gates was born in the hospital after a trying attempt to deliver him at home. The mom, Kate, had had two previous cesareans and the baby was also found to be breech about two weeks post-dates. The mother ignored not only the doctors who recommended she have a repeat cesarean, but even the midwife when she recommended (most likely) an NST at the hospital ten days post-dates. The coroner, Kim Parkinson, not only said they baby would have lived had he been taken care of in the hospital from the beginning of labor, but especially when the mother had a uterine rupture. She then commented, "To disregard the obstetrician's advice on the basis of a mantra founded in the uncertainty of statistical data obtained from the Internet is a dangerous course to follow."

When I commented, “The woman’s Internet “advisors” are just as guilty for this baby’s death,” a woman replied that no they aren’t, that we each make our own decisions.

So, who is responsible for the baby’s death? Is it the Internet for its anonymity and copious amounts of misinformation in the name of “telling the truth?” Is it the midwife who wrote in her notes that there are "’lots of political issues’ relating to home births?” Is it solely the mother’s because ultimately she made the decisions?

I bet those Internet advisors will find a way to incriminate anyone but themselves and the mother because mothers are rarely accused of doing anything wrong when it comes to home birth deaths. Even when it is their fault.

There are others culpable, though.

Entire websites are set up to convince women that medicine is evil, that doctors have nothing but dollars on their minds and that cesareans are the worst thing possible in a woman’s birth story. I could name five off the top of my head, but if I know them, then others do, too. There are a few that take the opposite stance, that home birth is evil and home birth midwives have nothing but popularity on their minds and that giving birth naturally is just for the experience. (I strive to be in the middle.) Neither is 100% correct, but desperate women cling to the fringes. Why is that? What are they looking for besides answers? Why do they look for the information they hope is true instead of balanced information? I’d need a psychology degree to answer those questions. It’s rather pitiful and sad, though, that they do… that there are women right now doing the exact same thing. And there are plenty of women out there validating their wishful thinking.

How many deaths and injuries need to occur before the Internet advisors start taking responsibility for their actions? Will they ever figure out the role they play in all of this? I would like to think so, but don’t hold out much hope for it. I don’t know how to get these women to own up to their behaviors, their advice to unsuspecting women who desperately want help over the wires.

Or how do we comfort the despairing woman? How do we help her so she doesn’t turn to the edge of sanity for information? Women can be so damaged; there has to be a way to help them before they go over the edge of sanity… the sanity of not taking medical advice from strangers.

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Reader Comments (4)

Although my "homebirth evolution" has been similar to yours, I am absolutely pro-choice in every aspect of life. What a person does is absolutely their own decision.

That applies to the mother, but it also applies to "Internet advisors", even the women who run "anything but a homebirth is evil" websites. It's their choice to feel that way. It was her choice to listen to them against medical advice, even though her choice ended in tragedy.

I totally swallowed every bit of the anti-hospital rhetoric during my last pregnancy. That was my decision. It was also my decision to go to the hospital when I became sure that something was wrong. And sure enough, my baby really, honestly could have died if I had not gone.

I felt guilty for a while afterwards, thinking I'd let the homebirthers down. But I don't anymore, because the decision was in my hands, not theirs, and I don't care how they felt about my choice.

I'm now facing a pro-choice issue (no, it's not what most people would assume). I have sought out people who agree with me. But it's still my life, my body, my choice, and I will (verbally) fight anyone who wishes to change my mind.

We are not sheep, we are people.

May 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLili

I strongly recommend that you read the actual findings of coroner: http://www.coronerscourt.vic.gov.au/resources/0956b73e-c3dc-422f-a08d-431b50f713ee/josephthurgoodgates_485110.pdf

I completely agree that many websites and online communities have a lot to answer for. But the midwife in this case did a lot more than just write in her notes that there are political issues with homebirth. She failed to correct the mother's views (which probably reflected her own), she apparently thought the mother should birth in hospital but failed to communicate this to the mother and the care given during the birth was clearly negligent. The baby would most probably have lived if the midwife either gave appropriate advice in the antenatal period or offered competent care during labour.

May 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBob

Because I am speaking about my place of employment I'm not using my name... however I have been working in a hospital birth "center" for the last three years and working there has made me feel so much *less* safe about giving birth in a hospital than I ever have previously. Before I started working in the hospital setting (as an IBCLC) I had three hospital births (one a known stillbirth) and three homebirths with a CPM. I was never thrilled with my hospital experiences and when I turned to homebirth is honestly was primarily for the experience. I was low risk, had an skilled provider with several decades of experience so my risk factors were a toss up - I chose what I wanted.

Unfortunately the extended period of time I've spent watching the "other side" of hospital births has made me think much longer and harder about when I would appropriately transfer. Day in and day out I see decisions made by care providers that put the health of mother and baby at risk and I see the consequences of those decisions. No I have not seen a loss of life directly related, but I have seen newborns who are now permanently disabled as (most likely) direct result of "standard" procedures and interventions.

I work in a very average hospital for our area. Average induction rates, average cesarean rates, average epidural rates, etc. Most of the doctors and the vast majority of nurses are very pleasant human beings without nefarious motives - they really just have no clue that it could somehow be different. And many/most do have *huge* judgements when women want/need to birth in the hospital, but want to try to moderate some of the standard procedures and interventions in what, appears to me, to be not illegitimate or unsafe ways. They talk poorly about these families and sometimes (though not always) treat them less well.

Unfortunately I can see situations where a mother might choose homebirth under slightly more risky conditions because of risks she and her child are subjected to once they enter the hospital/ medical system. It would seem a vitality important component to encourage safe birth choices would be to give women real choices -- not only is the information too often the drastic extremes, the choices are as well. And that isn't good for anyone.

May 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjustme

If anyone directly advised her that it would be safe or advisable to stay home when her OB and Midwife had already advised her to go to the hospital then they also have some culpability although the primary guilt belongs to the mother who ignored educated, trained, professionals.

BUT I want to be very careful about this women are being arrested, tried, found guilty and given hefty prison sentence for the crime of not carrying a fetus safely to term. She was neglectful that's for sure but let's not get ahead of ourselves, at most it was neglectful homicide and even that I find a bit of a stretch, she has dominion over her own body and has the right to refuse any and all medical care even when pregnant and yes this may put the fetus in an untenable position there is no way to secure the pregnancies rights without denying the women her rights.

Her rights come first even if it's the right to be stupid at the cost of the life her child, the harshest punishment she is going to face is that she caused the death of her child and that will haunt her for the rest of her days, much more than any punishment we can give her or a court of justice can hand down.










This is a slippery slope, should the doctors have called the police, dragged her to the hospital and forced a C-section against her will??? It's happened here in America, refuse and/or run and get CPS called on you for neglect.

May 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOubli

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